A bill to boost Sarawak’s control over its airspace through amendments to the Land Code was unanimously passed after its third reading in the state legislative assembly today.
The Land Code (Amendment) Bill 2022 was tabled by Sarawak deputy minister Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, whose portfolio covers law, the Malaysia Agreement 1963, and state-federal relations.
Speaking during the debate on the proposed amendments, she said they would ensure that the spectrum of airspace is used in accordance with Sarawak’s plans, especially for the establishment and improvement of Sarawak’s telecommunications infrastructure.
“The bill will provide the state with regulatory rights over the spectrum, to ensure that service provider companies extend telecommunication coverage to the rural areas,” she said.
“This is important so that the people in rural areas are not left behind.”
She said the amendments would also regulate the use of land for carbon storage by oil and gas companies.
“Seeking the right to regulate the spectrum (by passing this bill) does not conflict with the Federal Constitution.”
She was responding to Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen, who had argued in his debate that the legislation on the use of the spectrum in Sarawak’s airspace might be invalid as it contradicted the right of the state assembly to legislate matters provided for in the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution with the state list, federal list and concurrent list.
“I have no objection to the state government trying to secure extra revenue, but we are bound by the Federal Constitution, and any law that is contrary to the Federal Constitution will be deemed invalid,” he said.
“If you look at the federal list, the power under federal jurisdiction for spectrum, I believe falls under Item 10 concerning telecommunication and transportation.”
He suggested that the state government instead push for an amendment to the constitution itself.
“If the state government really wants to legislate and obtain the right over the spectrum passing the airspace of Sarawak, then the proper way to do it is to table an amendment to the constitution in Parliament before legislating a bill and claiming that we have a right over the spectrum,” he said.
“At present, the way I see it, the tabling of this amendment bill and claiming that we have the right to legislate is more like a ‘kampung’ way of seeking power.”